web analytics

Let me live for a moment in each of those rooms, lit warm and hanging over the street, each room on my walk home. Give me a key and let me stand, let me hear your music and watch your lights and take in the photos on your wall. Let me do it for a moment each, let me come and go, let me see how you live.

I can’t hold out much longer, I need someone to hang onto me, I need to be held up. Do it quick, I’m running out. Take off your shirt, I’ll meet you round back.

What’s next? What’s coming, what do I need to do now?

Most people think that when you work for an animal shelter, you work with animals who’ll usually be killed. If you live in San Francisco, then you probably know that we’re a no-kill shelter, largely through the efforts of generous donors and an aggressive spay and neuter program.

Neither presumption is entirely accurate. The operative word in the no-kill clause is “adoptable”; i.e. No adoptable animal is euthanized in San Francisco. That’s an interesting word, isn’t it? The truth is that some animals are euthanized in SF; many for medical reasons, many for behavior issues. The definition of “adoptable” changes; most recently it has been influenced by the local dog mauling case.

Now that the owners have been convicted of murder and manslaughter, many owners of dogs with an incident or history of aggression are now calling us, saying their landlords want the dog out. And guess what? We can’t take them anymore. In the year since the mauling, we’ve had to overhaul our entire department’s mission away from rehabilitation of problem dogs towards prevention. Because if we adopt out a dog that we know has bitten someone, we could be held liable if that dog bites again. Blame the lawyers. End result being, more dead dogs.

Sometimes we take in a dog with an unknown history, and in the course of its stay, it shows aggression. Which doesn’t bode well for the dog. My department is responsible for the decision regarding the dog’s future. Usually this is after staff and countless volunteers have interacted, bonded, trained, walked, and played with the dog, the majority of the time without incident. When the decision is made to euthanize, all of the staff and volunteers have to be informed, and since 99% of them have had nothing but wonderful interactions with the dogs, some fallout and burnout occurs.

What’s my point? Sometimes, like today, I sit at the meeting table with the women (yeah, I’m the only guy) who must determine whether an animal lives or dies, and I feel love and compassion and empathy for my co-workers. They must weigh the value of this dog’s life against the safety of the unknown public, and they must do this often. They must consider if they can defend their actions on a witness stand. And when a dog dies, they must come back to work the next day and resume their duties, and defend their actions to co-workers and volunteers. And they must welcome and care for the abandoned and the abused, the animals thrown in backyards and garages and fight pits, and they must accept that their efforts sometimes fail, and they must decide that the most humane act is death. And they must do this for very little money.

Sometimes I get cranky. People who need purebreds irritate me, and people who put them in shows really give me the creeps. Imagine if we applied the same dog show standards and ratings to humans. Didn’t we, like, go through that in WWII? People who don’t get their animals fixed piss me off, and people who fight dogs… well, it’s not worth discussing. People who accuse us of recklessly killing animals because they believe all animals should live, regardless of where that animal is going to live, need to fuck off. People who neglect or abuse their dogs and then want us to care for them, need to fuck off. People who put lunging pit bulls in their music videos as an accessory to their machismo, need to fuck off.

I met this boy at the gym last week through a friend of mine. I didn’t think much of it, but apparently he thought I was, like, hot as shit. He asked my friend what I did, and when he heard that I worked at an animal shelter, he said Well that’ll have to change, ’cause I’m not into animals. Guess what he needs to do?

But you? Don’t fuck off. Just love the mutts. They rule.

(Confidential to One Half of the Studly Couple: I don’t mean your dog. And thanks for rolling with the punches tonight. Next time we’ll see a movie not based on a video game. And you’re as adorable as ever. heh heh.)

Roughing It

I just agreed to room with Ski in a little cabin up at the Russian River for a three-day retreat in May, after my original roommate backed out. One could call this fate working in mysterious ways, though I’m more inclined to consider it just about the stupidest thing I’ve done in a long, long time. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Or trial by fire. Or something.

The heart, or is it the dick, knows no reason and why the fuck is that? If Darwin was right, we’re wasting a lot of time. Wait, I mean me. I’m wasting a lot of time and at this rate, my surname will never last. Oh this is so boring, and it won’t lead us anywhere. I was sitting on the porch steps waiting. You walked up and the boys whispered isn’t he sexy in my ear. I thought I had guts. You kissed my cheek. They flirted and you were struck dumb. Come on, I said, letting them watch us walk off together, a wrong impression masquerading as real.

The Artist as a Young Dork

The Tattooed Monk’s friend’s recent death seems to have triggered a wave of questions regarding his true calling in life. Monastery? Or a spiritual life in the real world? I’m biased, of course. Though I’d love a retreat-style vacation spent visiting him at whatever tranquil place he selects, I’d rather he just stay nearby and help tend to MY needs.

However, I’m beginning to wonder if it shouldn’t be me sequestered safely away from the world; meditating, harvesting grapes, and feeding the stray dogs drawn by my Saint Francis-like calm. ‘Cause I’m ready to run.

Roommate #1’s sweet dog Fannie is driving me absolutely nuts. He leaves her in a crate, because she’ll chew anything in reach, but as each day passes she becomes more restless, not less. She barks, she whines, she cries, she moves the crate around the room. That’s only one member of my four-man, four-dog, one-cat house. Did I tell you, I’m kind of an…introvert? Got some boxes? I’m ready to pack.

Work is worse. All those trainers, all those troubled dogs. Loud dogs, grumpy dogs, nervous dogs, sad dogs. Watchdog dogs. Don’t-leave-me-alone dogs. Let-me-piss-on-your-dog’s-bed dogs. I-know-you’re-working-but-I-gotta-scream-in-your-ear dogs. I-know-you’re-working-but-my-mom-left-me-alone-and-I’m-your-problem-now dogs. Ahem. Sweet lord’s creatures, you know I love you. But can’t you be more like Louie? I need some rest.

My lack of schmoozing abilites at Friday’s informal bloggermeeting kept me glued strangely to one spot at the Pilsner, a Juice Squeeze in one hand, watching theothersbuzzaboutwithimpressivesocialdexterity. At one point I stood alone, convincing myself to look more relaxed, damnit, and the moment hung like a drunken wasp filmed in slow motion, and I set my empty bottle on the bar and slipped out into the drizzle and the dark. Dearbeautifulbloggers, forgive me. Try me in a smaller group; I promise to behave.

Meanwhile I’m caught, continually, stuffing my heart down my sleeve when I hang with Ski. He had me speak at a meeting he runs Saturday night, and as an introduction he said “Michael is a dear friend of mine, whom I love very much, and I love hearing what he has to say,” and how big do you need the wall writing written, Mikey? Give it up, let him love you in his way.

I spent the afternoon today with another friend, eating omelettes on his back patio in the sun, our dogs sniffing for bacon at our feet, us human folk sharing tales of death. The deaths of each of our mothers, that is. A week apart even. We made each other cry talking about the final days, and we made each other cry paraphrasing the authors we quoted at their services; me, Manuel Puig; he, Virgina Woolf. He’s handsome and smart, and since our friendship began with sex, an ongoing mutual desire colors our times together. Yet he’s happily partnered, and good to his boyfriend. So we keep that under glass, each of us taking our turns admiring it’s complicated shape. I’ve changed. I don’t play with the sharp edges, I don’t tease. I leave, wanting it, letting it sleep.

My Melancholy Baby

“I learned to feel nostalgia for my own youth while I was living it.”
-Edmund White, The Beautiful Room is Empty

There are windows in buildings along Central Park, buildings seen in photographs, towers rising above the green trees, windows you wanted to peer from someday. Don’t you know, nobody actually lives there, nobody you’d ever know.

You read a book but when you arrive the city’s not that city.

You walk streets at night and you’ll never forget.

He pushes you up against a wall, white teeth and rum, you’re not from here, are you?

A woman’s voice from his bedroom stereo; blue notes in the basement, she’s rejoicing and he begs for another chance, and when you leave you’ll find that song and replay it as though you could go back (and I’ll never forget…)

Rain in another city, sweet boy don’t you know, each step forward narrows your life.

Soft Focus

confess, I used to watch The Real World. I privately thrilled to the combustible drama in that first hip New York City “loft”. It was so much fun when people would yell at each other, like Kevin calling Julie a racist because she was white and therefore had power (I took that course in college, too) over him, while he was only prejudiced because he didn’t have the power you need to be considered a racist. I thought it was so cool that there was an openly gay guy, Norman (remember, this was 1992). I watched the San Francisco version and loved to hate Puck and of course identified with Pablo and his boyfriend (whom I later saw on MUNI when I moved here) and admired his HIV activism (I was still negative) and cried when he passed away.

That show had an insidious affect on my consciousness. I walked around pretending a camera was focused on ME. I rehearsed the monologues I would perform in the Confessional Room. I constantly analyzed and summarized my reactions to relationships and life events and fantasized how millions of people would follow all of my super-meaningful life changes, my dates, and my art as an emotionally relevant soundtrack accompanied me on public transit. I would, of course, be the most mature member of that season, and my behavior would stand in marked contrast with whatever problem child the producers had found. Other cast members would attempt to pull me into their melodrama but I would listen attentively, nod my head at appropriate times, and then, with an enigmatic smile, deliver a wonderfully wise and clever remark that would demonstrate both my profound humanity and my hard-won street smarts. Fan mail would pour in. Even the camera crew would prefer my company, chillin’ with me at a spoken word event or the local gay bar, where I would duck in just to connect with my community, keepin’ it real, all the while ignoring the cameras so that I didn’t seem, you know, desperate for attention.

Eventually I grew out of the appropriate age demographic, and I have since moved on, abandoning the notion that my thoughts and behavior are critically important to millions of television viewers. I scoffed as more and more young people were led to believe that their opinions were original and rilly important to, like, everybody. I released myself from the compulsion to be famous by the age of 30. I learned how to be just another human being inhabiting this fragile planet, a simple soul, a worker among workers. And then I started a weblog.

Last night Bearbait and I were sitting over coffee, finally discussing my eighth step list. This is the one where you write down everyone you’ve ever hurt in your life. Then, in step nine, you begin to make appropriate restitutions. Imagine the fun.

After an hour of squirming, I put the list aside and the conversation veered towards my mature handling of recent events. Stop laughing, he was being sincere. Then he said, “Someone asked me something recently and I didn’t know how to answer it. They asked me if you ever cried.”

For a brief moment that old, familiar camera light shone on my face in close-up. People are talking about ME, I thought. Suddenly I was back in the Confessional Room. I’d talk about how it’s hard to open up sometimes, how I keep a tough exterior to hide the eternal pain within, how it’s rilly hard for me to trust people. Something by Alicia Keys would play as I stared off into the middle distance, fighting back the tears.

Then the camera clicked off. And it was just me and Bearbait; two men in a coffee shop.

“All the time”, I replied.


What is it about dream sex? I never seem to consummate the act, yet the deliciousness lingers upon waking, coloring the day’s absurdities with keen frustration; I wanna go back and see it, feel it more. It’s the longing, the teasing, the flirting on the edges of twilight sex, the nakedness in my vision’s periphery, the unbelievably pleasing pressure of his body against mine. How come I never thought of that position? How come I can’t say or do those things upon waking (alone)? How come when I talk to him I sublimate, smile like a friend, hang up the phone?

Seemingly unrelated, it’s striking me that suddenly everyone’s younger than me. The boys on underwear boxes, the boys on circuit posters, other bloggers, new friends, co-workers, actors, athletes, authors, boys at the gym. I woke from this dream screaming, HOW THE FUCK DID I GET OLD?

I’m turning thirty-one in about two and a half weeks. The funny thing is, I don’t mind. At least, I didn’t think I did. I don’t drool over the Young Ones. As one half of the Studly Couple said, “I prefer men with a few rough edges, a bit worn, like old boots.” (Good thing he’s in a couple; we’d be wrassling over the same hotties.) I remember my mom and her partner telling me that their forties were absolutely the best decade. You don’t give a shit anymore, they said (well, they wouldn’t say “shit”). I pay attention to my elders, believe it or not. I listen when they say follow your heart, life is short, love matters more than work. I listen so I can get a head’s start on the rest of you boys. Pay attention, or you’ll never catch up.

If it’s true (and I wonder) that all gay men are particularly sensitive about getting older, if they truly worship at the alter of the Boy, then I don’t find these men terribly attractive. Oh, you only think twenty-year olds are hot? I gotta go, life’s calling. I tend to think that cliché is a self-perpetuating neurosis, encouraged by gay media. If everyone shaves their chest, maybe I should, too. If everyone watches Queer as Folk, maybe I should, too. If everyone hates getting old, maybe I should, too. Remember stupid kids saying they’d rather die than turn into that old troll at the bar? Well, not everyone thinks you’re the shit, stupid kid. I’d hazard to guess that those of us aging gracefully (say what you will) don’t do so in a bar.

Now I’m smiling, because if you’re forty, you’re laughing at me. You’re just a baby, you say. Call me in a few years, when fewer boys watch you walk by. I guess it’s easy, aging gracefully, when you’re young like me.

The Ride

Why would I leave? At three I’m sunk in the couch with Sci-Fi, an hour later I’m with Kate at the stables, the wind fierce off the ocean. I close the gate behind us and we wade through the muck, scouting the brown boys for the Junkie. Pairs of heads raise from the troughs and tails twich, deep soft eyes consider us for a moment. I watch them, aware of their sudden strength. But I watch them like I watch dogs; expecting a wagging tail or some other welcome.

Kate hands me a set of brushes and I sweep No-Name Girl’s soft hair clean of hay and salt. She tolerates my hesitation. I want her to like me. I run my hand over her flanks, down her long nose, searching for the spots she’ll lean into. Not the side of her face, but underneath her chin, a hollow where I scratch and her eyes close briefly.

I try swinging into the saddle quickly as Kate holds the reins, wanting to look self-assured. No-Name Girl steps off towards the pen, yearning for lunch, but I’m able to coax her into following Kate and the Junkie as they set off for the beach. The crest of the hill beckons, the wind nearly blasts me off the saddle, and I grip the reins tightly as she steps, then trots down the steep hill. I’m glad I’m behind Kate so she can’t see my white knuckles. No-Name Girl follows the Junkie closely as we descend, picking over the sandy trail through the trees and the brush. Rubbery plants brush the soles of my boots.

Kate and the Junkie rock slowly ahead; beyond them the sun-warmed cliffs, the sea mist hanging in the air. The beach stretches out, empty, and we kick up sand as we trot, No-Name Girl following the Junkie’s lead. A fine layer of sand skims quickly in the wind across the beach, and I’ve never gone this fast on a living creature; her rhythym sets and I’m at her mercy as we fly. Kate can’t see me clutching the reins; wildness and terror flashing through me.

Is this who I’m going to be now? Everything’s opening up, taking me in strange directions. After a Sunday morning downpour I’m on a horse on the beach. She startles at the bits of seafoam blown free and shooting across the sand. She tries to scale a cliff and I’m going to fall. But I ask her to turn and follow Kate and she does, enduring my weight and fear.

We’re Here, We’re Queer, We’re Used to It

This morning I walked solo into the Hometown Deli, whereupon the Vietnamese proprietess asked, “No dog today? Too cold?”
“Actually”, I said, “my ex has him. We have joint custody.”
To which she laughed incredulously. “Like kids?”
“Ha ha ha…So she gets him sometimes? On weekends.”
“Yeah”, I said, “she helped raise him, so she likes to see him now and then,” I said, pouring cream into my coffee as that peculiar pronoun guilt rose its ugly head.
“Good thing you don’t have kids, huh?” she says, “Ha ha ha ha!”
“Yeah, right,” I say, laughing with her as I leave.

Out on the sidewalk I smack my closet-face. “What the hell did you do that for?” I ask myself.
“Sometimes it’s just easier to go along with the other person’s conversation,” I answer.
But the little activist in me is burning with shame. “You should use EVERY opportunity to be out, asshole. Challenge their assumptions. You’re taking it for granted. It’s fags like you who killed Matthew Shepard.”

Well…I didn’t really say that last part. But you get my point. Welcome to the abandoned carnival that is my head.

My doctor calls last night, having read in my records that my mother died. I assume my psychiatrist recorded that in my notes. I have a crack team of specialists handling my physical and mental care, but I’m pleasantly surprised at his empathy. He’s a good man. He also tells me that my latest lab results are in and my T-cells are now up to 1100. That’s an amazing number. “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.” I continue to feel like an HIV imposter.